Blog

Opening Words from Sun. March 4 by Outreach Director James Croft

March 4, 2018
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I’m James, Outreach Direct of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, and I have a confession to make: I don’t do nearly enough for the environment. I’m a shopper. I like to buy things. I like to buy things from Amazon, where I can browse a huge database of stuff I don’t need, and have it delivered to my door, preferably the very next day, by drone. And when these things arrive they are covered in packaging. Boxes inside boxes inside boxes. A tiny gadget is packaged in a huge box, filled with plastic to make sure the box doesn’t get dinged – the box I’m going to throw away anyway. (more…)

Faith Perspectives: Ending gun culture

March 4, 2018
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“Last week we looked at active shooter training at work. What would we do, we wondered, if a person with a gun came into our congregation and started killing people?”

Read Outreach Director James Croft’s Faith Perspectives article in the Post-Dispatch.

Archived copy (PDF)

Opening Words from Sun. February 25 by Louise Jett

February 28, 2018
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Good morning. My name is Louise Jett, and I am the social media manager here at the Ethical Society.

When I first found the listing for the social media manager position on LinkedIn, I got really excited. I knew that if the Society was truly ethical, and I was truly the right person for the job, I would be hired and I would succeed in spreading awareness about a movement I cherish – Humanism.
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Eat Pizza – Donate to SEEK!

February 27, 2018
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Please join MOD Pizza in supporting SEEK Sunday, March 25, all day. Just present this MOD Pizza Fundraiser Flyer to the cashier, and MOD will donate 20% of your bill to support SEEK, our Sunday Ethical Education for Kids program.

Online orders will not be counted toward our fundraiser. Please go into the restaurant or call ahead in order to participate in the donation opportunity.

MOD PIZZA • Ladue
8855K Ladue Rd.
Ladue, MO 63124
(314)354-8120

Please note, MOD is unable to accept extra donations within the store on behalf of SEEK. If you would like to donate directly to the program, please contact Ethical Education Director Rachel Valenti at rvalenti@ethicalstl.org.

SEEK MOD Pizza Fundraiser Flyer

Opening Words from Sun. February 18 by Andy Stanton

February 18, 2018
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Good morning.

I’m Andy Stanton, a relatively new member of the Ethical Society of St. Louis. My wife, Mary Ellen, and I joined in May of last year when we moved to St. Louis from the Washington DC area, where we’d lived for close to 50 years.

We came to St. Louis because both of us are retired and we wanted to live closer to our daughter, who had recently moved to Nashville. We chose St. Louis, rather than Nashville, as Mary Ellen was born and raised in St. Louis and still has family here. But there’s another very important reason why we wanted to move to St. Louis. And that is the presence of this organization, the Ethical Society of St. Louis, plus the Ethical Society Mid-Rivers in St. Peters.
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Opening Words from Sun. February 11 by David Gutekunst

February 11, 2018
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Good morning! Today I’m going to try to link this month’s theme of Love with January’s theme of Fear & Hate. 

In mid-January, Kate gave a platform talk, Fear: the Mind Killer, titled after a theme in the science fiction novel Dune. I haven’t read Dune…but I have watched it go up in flames.
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Post-Platform Reflection: James Croft’s “How We Make a Difference”

February 8, 2018
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I found this Platform Address to be very moving, and motivating. I appreciated James’s honesty about how tiny the organized Ethical Humanism movement is, and even the larger organized humanist movement. At the same time, I think it’s helpful (at least it’s helpful to me) to realize that humanist values, beliefs, and practices are widespread and growing in America and the world. The situation of Ethical Humanism is very different from that of a lot of religions in this way. For instance, it’s unlikely that someone who had never heard of Christianity or belonged to a Christian church would somehow on their own come up with the story of Jesus or spontaneously create the ritual of communion. In the case of Ethical Humanism, though, there are many millions of people who currently share the worldview, values, and even basic practices of Ethical Humanists without ever having heard of an Ethical Society, let alone having belonged to one.

So why aren’t there more, and bigger, Ethical Societies? I think this has more to do with culture and habit than beliefs. Every year, a smaller percentage of the population belongs to any organized community. And if you don’t have to be a member of an Ethical Society to be a “good, practicing” ethical humanist, why get up and go somewhere on Sundays, why commit and pledge to an organization at all?

This question brings me back to James’s talk, and his answer of how we make a difference, and how we make “bearable and meaningful” the fact of our smallness in the vastness of space and time: Community, connection, solidarity, friendship, love. More and more people seem to be rejecting “organized” anything, rejecting making significant commitments of time and resources to communities and congregations. At the same time, many people are feeling more alienated, more lonely, and more anxious, and many feel a lack of meaning and purpose in their lives.

Humans find and create meaning and purpose together—by being together, learning from each other, challenging each other, working together on projects that promote shared values, eating and having fun together. Committing to be in community with others is an act of mutual trust, hope, and, yes, even a kind of love. We feel this collective love when we are in an intimate small group where we can safely share our personal thoughts and feelings, and when we are in a huge public march advocating for shared goals. We feel this love when we know we can rely on our community to help us when we are in need, and when we actively support others in need.

I hope that more people will not continue to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Like many, I rejected the supernatural stories I learned as a child and the rituals that had no meaning for me. But I’m so glad I found that I could still have mutually supportive community and shared purpose—being a member of an Ethical Society brings meaning and joy to my life. That’s also why I chose to work as a Leader, and to try to let more people know about Ethical Humanism. And it’s why I have hope that our tiny movement will grow. But even if it doesn’t, that wouldn’t take away from all that this Ethical Society has provided for over 100 years, and all it continues to provide for its members and the wider community. And whether or not Ethical Humanism as a denomination grows, I am confident that the wider wave of humanism we are a part of will grow and evolve, as humanity continues to learn to love and care for all the members of the human family and all the life on our small planet.

Art Show – Susan Rogers

February 7, 2018
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Susan Rogers

Susan enjoys working outdoors, where nature is the instructor. Choosing to portray how she feels about the landscape, not just recording the scene. She is inspired by the disappearing landscape that is being claimed by urban sprawl. She creates paintings that help to preserve these quiet scenes, so that they will survive for hundreds of years. She hopes that her artwork will assist in slowing down the fast pace of our everyday lives.

When painting “en plein air” or in my studio it is important to work with efficiency. Simplifying what I see is a necessity. My goal is to capture the essence of the light and the magic that drew me to the scene in the first place.

Susan Rogers’ exhibit will open on Sunday, March 11, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30. The exhibit will be hanging through 14 April.

For more information go to: http://www.susanrogersart.com

Listing of all Art Shows.

Our Staff Are Our Heart

February 6, 2018
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In her Platform Address last Sunday, “Evolving Together,” our Leader Kate Lovelady stressed the importance of our staff to the life of the Ethical Society community. I’d just like to take a moment to echo her sentiment: our staff are the heart of the Ethical Society of St. Louis. Every single one of them is a pleasure to work with, and I get up every day excited to get to the Society and prepare a new week’s programs.

Nancy Jelinek works overtime in the office almost every day, and is on top of absolutely everything that happens at the Society – it’s superhuman, really. Rachel Valenti and Mary Harden design, prepare, and deliver amazing lessons and programs for our young people, making the Ethical Society a fantastic place to raise children. Kitt Rogers is a supremely dedicated Facility Coordinator, and she often comes into work on odd days to sort out a problem or make sure the heating’s on. JD Brooks seems to know every musicidan in the city, and arranges for exquisite and exquisitely varied Platform music every single week. Debbie Bernett is always on hand to set up a room, make endless vats of coffee, or prepare a projector to ensure our programs run smoothly. Louise Jett, our newest staff addition, has quickly become a member of our community and has made my job immeasurably easier and even more enjoyable.

We are hugely lucky to have such a talented and dedicated staff.

We are even luckier to have such a talented and dedicated Leader, in Kate Lovelady. Kate has become a mentor and a friend over the past few years, and I cannot express how lucky I feel for the privilege of working alongside her. She is the last person to sing her own praises, so I will say it for her: much of the success of the Ethical Society of St. Louis is down to Kate’s caring, thoughtful, steady, and passionate leadership over more than ten years. Most Societies do not enjoy a Leader with such a wide range of skills, and we should be so grateful for everything she has done for our community.

I think we can say with confidence that with staff of this caliber the Society is in good hands. As we look to further growth and success in the future, we can be thankful for the work these staff put in to make it happen.

Opening Words from Sun. February 4 by Rohith Jayaram

February 5, 2018
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Good morning everybody.

When I was 19, I met a man who believed the world was about to end, and he changed my life. His name was Rick, and he was a campus evangelist with Faith Christian Church in Tucson, Arizona. At that time I was in college, I met him through my roommate, and I ended up in Rick’s Bible study group. I have a couple Rick stories, but today I’ll focus on the day he invited us to his church.
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Opening Words from Sun. January 28 by Krystal White

January 28, 2018
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Good morning. My name is Krystal White and I have the honor and privilege to serve both as President-Elect and this year’s pledge campaign chair. You love this place and this community, just like I do, and I’m excited for us to turn that collective goodwill, passion, and loyalty into financial support for the Society.
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Explore Lessons Learned on the Starship Enterprise

January 26, 2018
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Star Trek

Dr. James Croft, philosopher and lifelong Star Trek fan, will explore how the series examines ethical questions and inspires viewers to be better during an upcoming free lecture, “The Ethics of Star Trek.”

Dr. James Croft

Star Trek costumes are encouraged, and a prize will be awarded for best costume. The public event will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11, in the Ethical Society of St. Louis Auditorium, at 9001 Clayton Road.

“As the first season of the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, comes to a close, it’s the perfect time to look over the series as a whole and ask what Star Trek has to teach us,” Croft said.

The beloved show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, prompted reflection by tackling current events like war, genocide and pollution.

“Star Trek has always examined deep ethical questions, asking what it means to be human and how we should treat those different to us,” Croft said.

Croft is the outreach director of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, a Humanist congregation where people come together to explore the biggest questions of life without reference to scripture, religion or God.

Join the Facebook Event

“The Ethics of Star Trek” is presented in partnership with The Academy of Science – St. Louis.

Opening Words from Sun. January 21 by Dean Jeffries

January 21, 2018
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This morning I rolled out of bed. That was the easy part, getting up off the floor became a challenge.

I consider myself a morning person and usually wake up with a new energy from my sound slumber. I understand not everyone may share this trait, but for me it enhances my creative side and allows time for reflection. It was at one of these moments when I wrote these opening words.

My name is Dean Jeffries and my wife Barbara and I have been Ethical Society members for a few years now and enjoy the benefits of being a part of this vital community. Barbara and I share many common values and life experiences. She and I are post WWII “Baby Boomers”, raised in Kansas and have remained in the midwest for most of our lives.
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When Should We Be Afraid?

January 20, 2018
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In her Platform Address on 1.14.2018, Kate Lovelady continued our exploration of fear and hatred (our theme for January) by examining ways in which we can overcome fear. She stressed that fear is a natural reaction, a physical set of responses meant to help us survive, which can sometimes backfire by making us afraid when we shouldn’t be. Fear, she said, is often like a smoke alarm: it’s there in case there’s an emergency, but more often than not goes off when we’ve burnt something in the toaster. Our fear response, in other words, is over-reactive: it triggers too easily, making us fearful when we should be calm.

There are times, though, when our evolved fear reaction is under-reactive: it doesn’t make us afraid when we should be. The purpose of fear is to get us to take action when we are threatened, but our fear response evolved in situations when danger was most often individual, immediate and nearby. When the dangers we face are communal, long-term, and far-spread, our fear response will often fail to trigger, and we won’t take the necessary action.

Climate change is a classic – and disturbing – example of the failure of our fear response. We should be afraid of climate change – it is one of the greatest threats facing humankind and all life on this planet – but our evolved fear response doesn’t recognize climate change as an imminent danger. Because climate change is happening slowly over a long period of time; because it is the result of millions upon millions of individual decisions by people all over the world; because the effects are often felt a long time after and a long way from the major causes, we do not feel fear. We might, when we direct our mind to climate change, feel a sense of creeping unease, but this dissipates quickly when our attention moves elsewhere.

Fear, then, is an unreliable guide to danger. Our fear emotion is good at showing us when clear and present dangers are at hand, but poor when those dangers and diffuse. We need to be attentive to these times when our fear emotion fails us, because many of the dangers we face as a global community are not so clear and present.

Art Show – Gary Gackstatter

January 15, 2018
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Snow Bridge by Gary Gackstatter

Drawing with pen and ink speaks of a time long ago. A certain sweetness comes over me when I pick up my pen and hear the little ‘tink’ when I dip its metal tip into the bottle of ink. This tactile act makes time disappear and makes each stroke of the pen a tiny line filled fat with memory and meaning. Layering these lines builds not only visual depth but also a depth of feeling that runs both ways between the artist and the subject. They say that you never really know a subject until you draw it. I would add that the subject doesn’t know you either, until then. That tree, that limestone fence, that stone bridge or that mountain seem to actually care if you ‘get it right’ when you draw with pen and ink. There is a spirit imbedded in these things that calls to me and says very softly, “Draw this”. Sometimes I won’t know why until I get into it, but it has to start there. I have to pay attention, walk slowly, or I’ll miss them when they whisper.

So, welcome. You’re invited to escape the ever-clattering modern world we live in and slip into a certain sweetness and slowness of a world composed of nothing but lines. Lines formed by dipping a crow quill nib repeatedly into a little bottle of ink, touching it to paper and letting the speed and direction of the pen determine its thickness. I knew that somehow you would get to see them someday .

I use 100 yr old crow quill pen tips dipped in Private Reserve “Velvet Black” ink on Bristol paper. Rarely using cross-hatching, I prefer layering lines that are finer than a human hair, sometimes taking two hours per square inch. Currently at the Green Door Gallery in Webster Groves, I have been in many art shows, including the St Louis Art Fair and Art and Air, in addition to many one-man shows.

Gary Gackstatter’s exhibit will open on Sunday, January 21, with a reception from 12:30 to 2:30. The exhibit will be hanging through the end of February. Gary will also provide platform music by playing his guitar on January 21.

For more information go to: Gackstatter Art and Music and The Chaco Canyon Project on facebook.

Opening Words from Sun. January 14 by Jim Jordan

January 14, 2018
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H.P. Lovecraft was right when he said, “The oldest and strongest emotion is fear.” Our capacity to process fear lies in the amygdala, an almond size mass in the brain. It is responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events. For some people, their biggest fear may be death. For others, it may be public speaking. But I posit that possibly the biggest fear is caring for a loved one whose health or wellbeing is declining, is in the later stages of dementia, has been in a terrible accident, or winds up being intubated because of pneumonia.
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Post-Platform Reflection: James Croft’s “How Should We Respond to Hate?”

January 12, 2018
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Clearly this topic is very difficult. For one thing, it seems that techniques that might work to defuse a hateful person (such as ignoring them, or letting them talk themselves out) might also be the techniques that unfortunately allow hate and misinformation to infect more people. So in James’s Platform I appreciated his dual suggestions that on an individual level we should treat even hate-spewing people with compassion and basic respect and try to understand them, while on a broader level society needs to set boundaries and limits to hateful, violence-encouraging speech.

This may be a weird or even inappropriate analogy, but because my partner and I are looking into fostering a dog soon, I can’t help but connect James’s call to be vigilant, unified, firm, and compassionate in the face of hate to the dog-training videos we’ve been watching lately. But perhaps that’s just because techniques to help any social animal change will have some similarities—such as, letting the subject know that we are aware and care about what they’re doing, that there is widespread agreement that what they’re doing is wrong, that we are determined to not allow wrong actions to continue, and that the boundaries we are setting and enforcing are based in care for all and in reason. (I’m not sure dogs understand all that on a rational level, but then I’m not sure people always do either.)

Setting boundaries with care for all, versus responding to hate with hate, reminds me of the idea articulated by the character Rose in the newest Star Wars movie—that the resistance will win the war not by fighting what they hate, but saving what they love. That can be a fine line sometimes, as defending what and who we love sometimes requires fighting threatening forces. But I think when we keep the focus on the positive values of care and love and equity, rather than becoming swept up in winning, showing that we’re right, or beating our enemies, we do make better choices, retain more of our own ethical integrity, and bring more people to our side eventually, hopefully even many of those we are currently fighting against.

Post-Platform Reflection: Claude Bernard’s “From Eternity to Here”

January 3, 2018
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Claude Bernard did a beautiful job presenting the Cosmic Calendar, in which the history of the universe is imagined as a single year, and we see that humanity is so young that homo sapiens only evolved on the last day of the cosmic year. All of human culture only happened in the last few minutes of the last hour. It was wonderfully appropriate to have this Platform Address on December 31.

I love the Cosmic Calendar. I remember seeing it on the TV show Cosmos, both the original version with Carl Sagan and the recent version with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. It’s of course fascinating to know the history of . . . everything, but even more, the Cosmic Calendar provides the ultimate perspective on ethical progress, or the seeming lack thereof. I referred to the calendar in my Platform Address “Bending the Arc of History Toward Justice” a few years ago as a major source of hope for humanists.

Many today are in despair at the state of ethics and politics; many fear we are going backward. I find it helpful to remember in this time of political ugliness that our ancestors literally crawled from the slime only a few “days” ago. And only a few breaths ago in cosmic time, US politics used to be far uglier! In the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Adams’ surrogates wrote that a Jefferson victory would result in “dwellings in flames . . . female chastity violated . . . children writhing on the pike.” In the election of 1828, John Adams was publicly accused of sex-trafficking—of selling his wife’s maid to a Russian Czar. The 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates are now famous for being substantive, versus the sound-bite television debates of today. But they were also full of base insults: Douglas called Lincoln a “horrid-looking wretch, sooty and scoundrelly in aspect, a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman.” We don’t even understand those insults today, but they were bad. Imagine if people back then had had Twitter. The fact that so many people today are so upset by the schoolyard tweets of the current President is actually a sign of ethical evolution. The #metoo movement is overthrowing millennia of culture. We feel it’s long overdue, or about damn time, but on the cosmic timeline humanity is also still like a bunch of toddlers working out how to be together.

We can imagine ourselves living in the last milliseconds of the first year of the Cosmic Calendar. Or we can think of ourselves as beginning the first milliseconds of the second year, with another 3.8 billion years to go before the next “New Year’s Eve.” It took billions of years for life to evolve, let alone humans. It only makes sense that it’s going to take us a while to abandon ways that kept us alive for millennia but that most people now wish to leave behind, such as xenophobia and rule by violence. We are still ethically evolving. And I believe, like the expansion of the universe itself, our ethical evolution is accelerating and unstoppable.

Being Human: What, Why, Who Am I?

January 2, 2018
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Who am I? Why am I here? What’s going on? All of us ask these questions sometime in our lives. Ethical Humanism’s answers are drawn from a rich tradition of thought throughout the ages. Ethical Humanists seek to infuse our lives with a set of values, without looking to a single text or teacher for answers – we create those answers for ourselves. This weekly 8-session class (Wednesdays 6:30-8:30 p.m.) explores the biggest questions in life. Each session includes a short presentation, guided discussion, and a simple “homework” activity. Classes are limited to 15 participants.

For information and sign-up, contact James Croft.
See it in the calendar.

December’s Wonder Slideshow

December 31, 2017
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December’s theme was wonder, and we asked our community members to share examples of the wonderful things they find. This slideshow is a compilation of the responses. The slides were also included in two of our weekly pre-platform slideshows. Thank you to everyone who participated!

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